Michael’s Garden Blog – Last Frost Dates

WOW, what May Day weather! Working in my intensely producing raised bed, I finished pulling out most of the cilantro (which has been in various stages of blooming for a couple weeks) in a snow storm! Some of the almost two foot cilantro stalks, along with large spinach and kale leaves, were shielding stunted snap pea vines from the sun. The pea vines will now be able to take off and up the newly provided stakes and twine. Additional revamping of the bed included scratching in some compost, transplanting some of the crowded lettuce and spinach babies into open spaces, then hand watering it all with buckets of water from the fish pond and lastly carefully layering mulch over the drip lines.

Aside from the reprieve of a one day snow storm, we have seen little in the way of moisture. Our exceedingly dry, frigid winter followed by this brutally dry, windy spring will likely spell high mortality for plants. We have been seeing more dieback than usual, and roses and Golden Bamboo, generally known for their survival skills – are even trying hard to rebound.

Looking to the sky, the beginning of this month is an especially fertile time for planting all sorts of seeds and transplants. On Tuesday the moon is new in Taurus. Even so, it’s too cold still this first week in May for putting any hot weather vegetables like cucumbers, beans, corn, squash and yes, tomatoes, basil,etc.. into the ground as we’re being told that temperatures will continue to dip into the mid-twenties for at least another week. So, be patient with setting out any of these hot weather vegetables (Santa Fe’s average frost free date is May 10th ) and unless you can provide good protection like walls of water, it’s better to wait. As we move into the third week of May the soil will begin to fully warm, giving those hot weather plants a better chance to thrive.

Almost anything else (aside from hot weather vegetables) that comes to mind that a home gardener might want to grow can be started from seeds sewn directly outside now or by transplanting starts that have been sufficiently hardened off. Hardening off of plant starts is a necessary step for successfully transplanting plants that have not been in direct sunlight and/or spent unsheltered nights outside. Sudden direct May sunshine can shock fragile plants such as tomatoes if they are accustomed to filtered light in a crowded greenhouse or near a window in your house. Temperatures in our semi-arid mountain climate can swing 40 degrees or more daily – thus also challenging new plants to remain viably strong.

One of my main purposes in writing this blog is to counsel and encourage local gardeners of the possibility for success, in relative degrees throughout the year, to produce greens for meals in satisfying amounts and of superior quality. Be forewarned, once you get used to the sharpened aliveness of your own produce, it’ll be hard to go back to the thin, plastic-packed, bland stuff trucked from California! Of course, there’s always the Farmers’ Market, albeit vitamin C does diminish within hours of picking along with some degree of taste and satisfaction. And of course, there’s the joy of homegrown tomatoes – in case you didn’t get your seeds in the ground in early March, the best selection and quality of tomato plants is always Agua Fria Nursery.